–Will take up the matter with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during his visit to Pakistan: FM Qureshi
–US military cancels $300 million CSF payment to Islamabad
–Not aid, but reimbursement for loss of lives, money in war on terror, stresses FM Qureshi
–US cites ‘Pakistan’s failure to act against militants’ as reason for CSF cut
–Total withheld funds amount to $800 million
–Move comes ahead of Mike Pompeo’s visit to Islamabad
ISLAMABAD/WASHINGTON: Pakistan has announced to take up the matter of suspension of $300 million ‘aide’ by the United States (US) during US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s upcoming visit to the country only hours after the US military ordered to cancel the Coalition Support Funds (CSF).
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi made the call during a news conference on Sunday where he clarified that the CSF blocked by the US was part of reimbursement for the loss of lives and financial damages that Pakistan suffered while leading the fight against terrorism.
He maintained that it was not the aid that was cancelled, rather “it was all our money that we spent and they were merely reimbursing it.” The deal was done even before the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government assumed power, he added.
Talking about how the Pakistani government will press the US officials, including Pompeo and top US military officer General Joseph Dunford who are scheduled to visit Islamabad on September 5, he said, “We will sit and discuss this with him [Pompeo]. We will try to improve bilateral ties between the two countries. We will listen to him and present our point of view to him as well,”
Blaming the previous PML-N government for the existing state of bilateral ties with the US, Qureshi said, “The last government had no engagement, no dialogue [with the US administration] … in fact there was an almost total breakdown of talks. But we will try to revive the talks.”
US MILITARY DECIDES TO SUSPEND CSF:
The US made the final decision to cancel another $300 million in ‘aid’ to Pakistan that had been halted over what the former claims is the latter’s failure to take decisive action against militants, reported Reuters.
The so-called Coalition Support Funds (CSF) were part of a broader suspension in aid to Pakistan announced by US President Donald Trump at the start of the year when he accused Pakistan of rewarding past assistance with “nothing but lies & deceit.”
In a new blow to deteriorating ties, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, who had an opportunity to authorise the said $300 million in CSF funds through this summer — if he saw concrete Pakistani actions to go after insurgents — chose not to do so, despite some US officials having held out the possibility that Islamabad could win back that support if it changed its behaviour.
Pentagon Spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Kone Faulkner said, “Due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy the remaining $300 (million) was reprogrammed,”, adding that the Pentagon aimed to spend this money on “other urgent priorities” if approved by US Congress.
Faulkner also said that another $500 million in CSF was stripped by the Congress from Pakistan earlier this year, which brings the total withheld funds to $800 million.
The disclosure came ahead of an expected visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US General Joseph Dunford, to Islamabad. Mattis told reporters on Tuesday that combating militants would be a “primary part of the discussion.”
Experts on the Afghan conflict, America’s longest war, argue that militant safe havens in Pakistan have allowed Taliban-linked insurgents in Afghanistan a place to plot deadly strikes and regroup after ground offensives.
The Pentagon’s decision showed that the US, which has sought to change Pakistan’s behaviour, is still increasing pressure on Pakistan’s security apparatus.
It also underscored that Islamabad has yet to deliver the kind of change sought by Washington.
“It is a calibrated, incremental ratcheting up of pressure on Pakistan,” said Stimson Center South Asia Program Co-Director Sameer Lalwani.
Reuters reported in August that the Trump administration had quietly started cutting scores of Pakistani officers from coveted training and educational programs that have been a hallmark of bilateral military relations for more than a decade.
The Pentagon had made similar determinations on CSF in the past but this year’s move could get more attention from Islamabad, and its new Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan, at a time when its economy is struggling.
Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves have plummeted over the past year and it will soon decide on whether to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or friendly nations such as China.
“They are squeezing them when they know that they’re vulnerable and it is probably a signal about what to expect should Pakistan come to the IMF for a loan,” Lalwani also said.
The United States has the largest share of votes at the IMF.
PM Khan, who once suggested he might order the shooting down of US drones if they entered Pakistani airspace, has opposed the United States’ open-ended presence in Afghanistan. In his victory speech, he said he wanted “mutually beneficial” relations with Washington.
A Pakistani official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he was unaware of a formal notification of the US decision on assistance but said one was expected by the end of September.
Pakistan has received more than $33 billion in U.S. assistance since 2002, including more than $14 billion in CSF, a US Defence Department program to reimburse allies that have incurred costs in supporting counter-insurgency operations.
Pakistan could again be eligible next year for CSF.